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# The insanity defense in legal proceedings follows from the assumption

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The insanity defense in legal proceedings follows from the assumption  [#permalink]

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Updated on: 27 Aug 2019, 06:32
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New Project RC Butler 2019 - Practice 2 RC Passages Everyday
Passage # 294, Date : 27-Aug-2019
This post is a part of New Project RC Butler 2019. Click here for Details

The insanity defense in legal proceedings follows from the assumption that the great majority of people freely choose to follow the law. However, some individuals—those determined to be lacking in the appropriate mental capacities—are unable to choose to follow the law. This scenario presents a conundrum for legal theorists. If someone is truly unable to follow the law, is it just to imprison him and punish him for something he did involuntarily?

Insanity as a legal defense traces back to a case in 1843, when a man named Daniel M’Naghten attempted to assassinate the British Prime Minister. M’Naghten’s laywers claimed that the would-be assassin was being persecuted and was driven to commit the crime. Prosecutors argued that in order to plan and execute the assassination, M’Naghten must have been in a rational state of mind. After several experts testified that M’Naghten was insane, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity, touching off a spirited legal discussion on the merits of the insanity plea. From these deliberations emerged what became known as the M’Naghten test, by which jurors were asked to judge the sanity of a defendant based on two questions. First, did the defendant know what he was doing when he committed the crime? And second, did the defendant understand that his actions were wrong? Jurors were instructed in all cases to presume the defendant was sane and only acquit on the basis of the insanity if “it was clearly proved that the accused was laboring under such a defect of reason as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong.”

Later versions of the M’Naghten test included an addendum that stated in cases in which the accused knew his actions were wrong, he could be acquitted if the jury determined he acted on the basis of an irresistible impulse. The implication was that some mental illnesses are so powerful that they cause people to act in ways that they know are wrong.

The passage is primarily concerned with evaluating

A. the accuracy of the jury’s verdict in the M’Naghten trial
B. the criteria used to determine whether a defendant is insane
C. the relation between mental illness and crime
D. the legal theories and assumptions behind the presumption of sanity in a defendant
E. whether it is just to imprison the legally insane who commit crimes

According to the original version of the M’Naghten test, a jury

A. should not construe the defendant’s ability to follow a rational plan as evidence of sanity
B. should not consider mitigating factors when sentencing the defendant
C. should evaluate how rational the defendant’s planning of the crime appeared
D. should acquit a defendant who satisfies one, but not necessarily both, of the criteria for legal insanity
E. should only acquit a defendant who is both unaware of his actions and does not understand they are wrong

The author of the passage would most likely agree that

A. It is difficult to reconcile traditional notions of justice with certain conceptions of mental illness.
B. Jurors should always presume a defendant is sane unless otherwise directed by the judge.
C. There are no mental illnesses that cause people to act in ways that they know are wrong and yet are powerless to resist.
D. The M’Naghten test will continue to evolve as more research is done on the nature of mental illnesses.
E. A person who is acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity is still responsible for his actions.

In the last paragraph, the author is primarily concerned with

A. summarizing the previous arguments about the M’Naghten test
B. presenting an evaluation of the usefulness of the M’Naghten test
C. detailing a more recent revision to the M’Naghten test
D. exposing the absurdity of using the M’Naghten test
E. suggesting a paradox inherent in the M’Naghten test

Source: McGraw-Hill's GMAT

Originally posted by TheUltimateWinner on 24 Mar 2017, 20:17.
Last edited by SajjadAhmad on 27 Aug 2019, 06:32, edited 5 times in total.
Updated - Complete topic (304).
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Re: The insanity defense in legal proceedings follows from the assumption  [#permalink]

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Updated on: 02 Jan 2019, 10:56
4
5 mins 38 secs... all correct. The topic under discussion is a rather unique one for anyone who is not from a law background. Good passage with good close options.

Let me know if anyone is struggling with a particular question and I will add my thoughts in a new post or as an edit to this one.

Edit 1: Adding explanations on request.

Please bear with the long summary and highlighting of certain points...
Summary & Main point -
"A great majority of people freely choose to follow the law. However, some individuals—those determined to be lacking in the appropriate mental capacities—are unable to choose to follow the law." This presents a dilemma for legal theorists who are trying to ascertain whether it would be just to punish someone for a crime he or she did not willingly commit. Then a historical case of insanity in legal proceedings is presented and the M’Naghten test is detailed. This is the central idea of the passage - the test revolves around First, did the defendant know what he was doing when he committed the crime? And second, did the defendant understand that his actions were wrong? and the jurors were instructed (Implicite and not mentioned that they were instructed by the judges that the defendant is presumed sane unless insanity is established ( using the test ). Finally a latest development to the M’Naghten test is presented adding the clause of " irresistible impulse"

Once you get the above central idea - the questions can be tackled easily.

Having an idea of the central theme is essential to answer this question
1. The passage is primarily concerned with evaluating

A. the accuracy of the jury’s verdict in the M’Naghten trial Accuracy is out of scope. Discard
B. the criteria used to determine whether a defendant is insane BINGO - in other words this option is talking about the M’Naghten test which is the main point of the passage. One way to ascertain this is that it takes up nearly 80% of the passage
C. the relation between mental illness and crime TRAP - this could be the indirect answer but this is not what the passage is *evaluating*
D. the legal theories and assumptions behind the presumption of sanity in a defendant Again - not what passage evaluate - just describes
E. whether it is just to imprison the legally insane who commit crimes Too broad and again discarded on the lines of the above

Detail question that can be answered by reading the second para. Also this is an inference type and hence we must be 100% able to support the option from the info provided in the passage
2. According to the original version of the M’Naghten test, a jury

A. should not construe the defendant’s ability to follow a rational plan as evidence of sanity Discard. This is not a part of the original test
B. should not consider mitigating factors when sentencing the defendant Mitigating factors? A general statement and
C. should evaluate how rational the defendant’s planning of the crime appeared BS Option. Nothing about appearance is mentioned. Discard
D. should acquit a defendant who satisfies one, but not necessarily both, of the criteria for legal insanity Bingo - this is verbatim mentioned at the end of the para when the first question fails the second question is asked.
E. should only acquit a defendant who is both unaware of his actions and does not understand they are wrong Opposite. Discard

Regards,
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Regards,

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” - Yoda (The Empire Strikes Back)

Originally posted by Gladiator59 on 02 Jan 2019, 00:45.
Last edited by Gladiator59 on 02 Jan 2019, 10:56, edited 1 time in total.
Added explanations on request. In progress.
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Re: The insanity defense in legal proceedings follows from the assumption  [#permalink]

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07 May 2018, 20:40
2
kanthaliya wrote:
The author of the passage would most likely agree that
A. It is difficult to reconcile traditional notions of justice with certain conceptions of mental illness.
(gist of 1st para)
B. Jurors should always presume a defendant is sane unless otherwise directed by the judge.
C. There are no mental illnesses that cause people to act in ways that they know are wrong and yet are powerless to resist.
(last para states that there are mental illness ,which is why there is a modification in the M’Naghten test)
D. The M’Naghten test will continue to evolve as more research is done on the nature of mental illnesses.
(no mention of further research)
E. A person who is acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity is still responsible for his actions.
(OFS)

Hope it is clear now!
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Re: The insanity defense in legal proceedings follows from the assumption  [#permalink]

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28 Aug 2019, 22:42
1
Para 1 Summary – Author introduces the nsanty deense aspect o legal proceedings and the assumption it is based upon. Then raises a question for cases where assumption fails to hold and how jurisdictions decide.

Para 2 Summary – Author then notes about the history of insanity aspect using an example of a case where the lawyers claimed that a rational is required for the crime to be committed by a person, which set off the discussion in merits of insanity plea. M’Naghten test came into existence in which judges were required to assess the insanity based on two questions and further details are provided.

Para 3 Summary – In the final para author notes some revisions based on mental irresistible impulse.

The passage is primarily concerned with evaluating

A. the accuracy of the jury’s verdict in the M’Naghten trial – WRONG. No the author is not concerned with the accuracy of jury’s verdict.
B. the criteria used to determine whether a defendant is insane – CORRECT. In all three paragraphs author mentioned something about the criteria viz. raising a question in first, providing details of criteria in second and some revisions about it in last.
C. the relation between mental illness and crime – WRONG. Only second paragraph concerns this, thus limited scope.
D. the legal theories and assumptions behind the presumption of sanity in a defendant – WRONG. Similar to option C this has a limited scope(only para 1).
E. whether it is just to imprison the legally insane who commit crimes – WRONG. Same as option D.

According to the original version of the M’Naghten test, a jury

Marked A. Though it is wrong, it looks good when paragraph 2 is not understood proper. Line 3 “Prosecutors argued …. state of mind” on the other side suggests that a jury does judge “the ability of M’Naghten to plan and execute the assassination as that he must have been in a rational state of mind”.

A. should not construe the defendant’s ability to follow a rational plan as evidence of sanity – WRONG. Introducing ‘not’ in the option makes it wrong.
B. should not consider mitigating factors when sentencing the defendant – WRONG. Irrelevant since degree of sentence in not covered in the passage.
C. should evaluate how rational the defendant’s planning of the crime appeared – WRONG. Details of defendant’s planning is not covered under the test.
D. should acquit a defendant who satisfies one, but not necessarily both, of the criteria for legal insanity – CORRECT. Before actual Test came into existence i.e. before the ruling in M’Naghten case jury used to approach the way only after which two questions were introduced based on which judge ordered ruling.
E. should only acquit a defendant who is both unaware of his actions and does not understand they are wrong – WRONG. Exactly opposite to what is asked. This is true after addendums.

The author of the passage would most likely agree that

Again an inference question and only a better understanding of passage helps to answer. Marked correct answer using POE though.

A. It is difficult to reconcile traditional notions of justice with certain conceptions of mental illness. – CORRECT. Prior to 1843 nothing is known as per passage.
B. Jurors should always presume a defendant is sane unless otherwise directed by the judge – WRONG. Usage of ‘should’ makes the option wrong.
C. There are no mental illnesses that cause people to act in ways that they know are wrong and yet are powerless to resist. – WRONG. Irrelevant since whole passage is about mental role defendant and proceedings.
D. The M’Naghten test will continue to evolve as more research is done on the nature of mental illnesses. – WRONG. Not supported by passage. Irrelevant.
E. A person who is acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity is still responsible for his actions. – WRONG. No such opinion given by author nor even a hint.

In the last paragraph, the author is primarily concerned with

A. summarizing the previous arguments about the M’Naghten test – WRONG. Nothing related to previous arguments is discussed in last para.
B. presenting an evaluation of the usefulness of the M’Naghten test – WRONG. Usefulness of test is not mentioned ever in passage.
C. detailing a more recent revision to the M’Naghten test – CORRECT. Addendum ≃ revision ≃ amendment. Thus correct.
D. exposing the absurdity of using the M’Naghten test – WRONG. Not such sort of discussed.
E. suggesting a paradox inherent in the M’Naghten test – WRONG. Not such sort of discussed.
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Re: The insanity defense in legal proceedings follows from the assumption   [#permalink] 28 Aug 2019, 22:42